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Comment: Except that science IS purely rational... (Score 1) 937

by volkris (#47903527) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

"I reject the idea that science is logical, purely rational, that it is detached and value-free, and that it is, for all these reasons, morally superior. Spock-ism gives us a false picture of science."

Reject it all you want, but the scientific method IS logical, purely rational, detached, and value-free. In fact, that's only THE WHOLE POINT and why it's useful. An irrational science that accounts for values is no longer science; it's just more un- or anti-scientific blathering.

But then, it's exactly for this reason that science is not "morally superior." Since science is value-free it cannot possibly declare itself to have such a value.

In the end it sounds like what this author really wants is for people to consider values in addition to science, but he doesn't realize that there are other, value-considering approaches out there. He's hijacking science unnecessarily.

Comment: Science creates understanding of a real world. (Score 1) 770

by volkris (#47866085) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

In my field we'd rather say that verification and reproduction are confirmation that science has taken place, not actually part of science in themselves.

To us, science is only theorizing, hypothesizing, and experimenting. All the rest--from grant writing through publishing--are merely the very human drama that surrounds the drama-free search for knowledge of the scientific method.

We do science to avoid human biases. Verification and reproduction of results tend to be very human processes.

Comment: What consensus means: (Score 1) 770

by volkris (#47866009) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

Ah, I see you're bringing in rules used in philosophical debates and legal arguments :)

The thing is, the "one investigator who happens to be right" is still doing science. It doesn't matter what anyone else in the world thinks; so long as that one investigator is abiding by the scientific method, he is behaving scientifically.

Meanwhile, for others to point to the beliefs of groups of people as grounds on which to attack the work of that one investigator is necessarily anti-scientific. It is attempting to put rhetoric and democratic notions of discovery above the actual experimental work of the investigator--above the actual science.

So yes, let's not game the system. The scientific method does not appreciate the injection of rhetoric.

Comment: I disagree with the premise... (Score 1) 770

by volkris (#47865967) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

Scientific consensus is not political consensus.

Scientific consensus is an group of scientists agreeing on a proven theory or the proof of a theory.

And therein you've described a political process.

Any group of people seeking agreement is an example of politics, the very human activity of men attempting to convince each other to hold the views that each individual wants others to hold. Whether the rhetoric alludes to observations of the world or appeals to morality is beside the point that it is, in fact, a rhetorical process, not a scientific one.

Reality doesn't care what a group of scientists have agreed to think is true. Our experiments will turn out the same way no matter what we've managed to convince each other to believe.

Comment: Science is hard for a reason. (Score 1) 770

by volkris (#47865905) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

Science is hard. In some cases scientific investigation might be fundamentally impossible. That's no excuse to water down the meaning of science, though, to make it more convenient.

Crichton had it exactly right. Science is the process of testing theories through hypothesis and experiment. It has nothing to do with consensus, or publishing, or going to school, or getting degrees. All of that may be in the human-created chaos that often occurs around the scientific process, but it is not science.

The entire point of science, as my field uses the word, is to free us from having to rely on these elements of human drama.

Comment: Re:Kill the Pork (Score 1) 340

by volkris (#31243168) Attached to: State of Alabama Fighting NASA's New Plan

So the "tax cuts for the rich" lowered expenses for businesses. Why would the business reinvest that money into employees and tooling? Because it wants to make money! If the business is doing well, it will probably want to expand and improve itself, so it will choose to reinvest. And again, we don't have to guess at that, we have the actual data showing that it happened quite often.

But fine: maybe some didn't want to expand or weren't doing well enough that they'd see a return on that investment. The owner would then keep the money... but not in his mattress, he'd put it in a bank which would then have the money available to loan to other businesses that DID want to expand. Again, no theory here, only fact that it's what banks do.

The economic recovery of the early 2000s was largely, clearly, and explicitly due specifically to the "tax cuts for the rich" that everyone has been all too quick to hang around Bush's neck. Funny, that.

And now we're rushing to kill that albatross.

Comment: Re:Kill the Pork (Score 1) 340

by volkris (#31243130) Attached to: State of Alabama Fighting NASA's New Plan

Changes in the law affect law, not economics. Would you say we need to write all new physics every time someone moves a little mass?

So you bring up sub-prime mortgages that "haven't exactly helped out economy out." Even that's not exactly an accurate view of what's going on, though it is the popular view and the view that has benefited politicians to reinforce.

The subprime mortgages actually HAVE worked to help the economy out in various ways ranging from allowing people to have a chance at home ownership when they otherwise wouldn't have had the option to allowing financial institutions to hedge their bets, managing their risk.

In fact, a huge part of what happened wasn't because of sub-prime mortgages and derivatives, but because of the political reaction to them. Politicians hijacked the system, throwing a wrench into it all and crashing it.

You could argue that the system should have been more durable so as to withstand politicians' meddling, but I wouldn't really blame the system itself for that.

Economists know this, but the word doesn't really get out because it's not politically convenient. As you say, the politicians want to increase their power at every turn, and the crash of the market that they caused through their hamhanded meddling is just another example of this.

Don't blame the economists or the financial system for the actions of power hungry politicians.

Comment: Re:Kill the Pork (Score 1) 340

by volkris (#31237572) Attached to: State of Alabama Fighting NASA's New Plan

Studies. Plural. This wasn't some kind of one-off research done halfheatedly by a guy with an ax to grind, but an issue looked into by real researchers who know how to do academic work.

And no, like I said, it was all done and settled years and years ago. I don't exactly have every paper I've ever read sitting next to my desk.

But is it so hard to imagine? That if you lower expenses for businesses in real, lasting ways, that they'd be able to apply that capital into expansion and new hiring?

Bush's "tax cuts for the rich" was obviously not about letting rich people have more money for the hell of it, but about letting them keep more of their own money so that they could put it to use in economy-expanding ways. And it worked exactly as planned.

Comment: Re:Kill the Pork (Score 1) 340

by volkris (#31237312) Attached to: State of Alabama Fighting NASA's New Plan

Perhaps you think economists are so out in the dark because the ones you're hearing from are either bad economists or are simply talking about/motivated by non-economic factors. Lord knows I hear enough of those in the popular media.

But, in general, economists most certainly can apply their craft to current situations.

It often becomes a matter of carefully separating economics from all-too-related topics like politics and popular opinion.

Comment: Re:Kill the Pork (Score 1) 340

by volkris (#31231790) Attached to: State of Alabama Fighting NASA's New Plan

Clearly you're even less an economist than I am. I, at least, have worked with economists to apply physical mathematics to economic problems, and thus know that economics is very much a science... and this coming from a physicist.

The fields of economics and physics actually have a lot in common. Both, as you point out, involve a lot of correlations, but just as we physicists somehow manage to suss out causation, economists do as well.

Anyway, yeah, there is solid, pretty unassailable evidence to back what I say. I don't have the studies in front of me anymore as the matter was pretty much investigated and settled years ago, but in short, the "tax cuts for the rich" ended up applying to a lot of small businesses that were able to use their savings to directly hire new employees. There was no quibbling about it: the study authors called up the businesses and asked. The causation was not just possible, it was explicit.

In general, economists DO agree on an awful lot. What divergences exist tend to arise from differing subjective opinions about matters that aren't actually economic but rather matters of public policy and ethics. After all, two people will gauge market performance differently if they have different metrics.

Comment: Re:Even McCain represented hope? (Score 1) 340

by volkris (#31132558) Attached to: State of Alabama Fighting NASA's New Plan

Hope that he'd sway conservative in recognition of the voters who put him in office and in recognition that he pretty much had to if he wanted a second term.

Or, hell, step down from the nomination at the last second recognizing that he wasn't the man for the job.

The hope was a longshot, absolutely, but it was there and it kept things in a different phase than the situation when tea parties were sparked.

Comment: Re:Kill the Pork (Score 1) 340

by volkris (#31131066) Attached to: State of Alabama Fighting NASA's New Plan

There certainly are differences between policies that increase the deficit. Sure they all increase the deficit, but that's not nearly the end of the story.

And no, the current state of affairs doesn't indicate that the boost from these tax cuts was temporary. It only demonstrates how later policies and events separately affected the economy.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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